This week’s blog written by Jerry Acuff, CEO & Founder.


As we wind down 2016 and begin thinking about what we want to accomplish in 2017, I feel it’s timely to revisit my 5 rules for setting and achieving stretch goals.

Most of what I know about goal setting I learned from Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psychocybernetics, and Ron Willingham, a terrific sales expert who has studied goal setting as much as anyone I know. I highly suggest that you read anything they have written on goal setting because it is all “gold”.

I tried to distill what I learned from them into what I call as the 5 rules for setting and achieving stretch goals. Here they are:

  • Define your goals with clarity – The goals you set must be clear and specific. Having a goal of “selling more” is analogous to the New Year’s Eve resolutions so many people make around losing weight or exercising more. Without a definitive measurement of how much weight they want to lose, how many times they want to exercise per week, and indeed, how much more, specifically, they want to sell, most people not only don’t meet their goals but also lose track of those goals as time goes by because there is no clear, measurable goal to be achieved.
  • Write your goals on paper and refer to them often – The term, “out of sight – out of mind” is incredibly relevant when it comes to setting and achieving goals. I personally write out my goals at the beginning of every year, look at them at the start of every day, and carry them with me always.  When the paper becomes tattered, I rewrite them and the process continues.  In this way, I not only commit my goals to memory but I commit every part of me to achieving my goals each and every day.
  • Ensure your goals are aligned with your gifts and talents – This is a very important part of goal setting that often trips up people when setting goals. They are so excited about the coming year, that they create goals that are so outlandish or beyond their physical capability, that the underachievement of the goal has been determined before they ever start.

You may know that I love basketball. In fact, I really love Virginia Tech basketball because it’s coached by my good friend Buzz Williams.  I so enjoy watching his games and attending practices. I often sit there and wish I could be a high flyer dunker like his players.  And I could indeed set a goal to achieve that “lofty” status.  But that my friends, no matter how hard I work, ain’t gonna happen. PERIOD!

Thankfully, I have come to realize what my gifts and talents are and I make goals that reflect those and dunking isn’t one of them.  This is not to say that stretch goals aren’t important, but goals, whether as an individual or an organization, that truly cannot be achieved, have a negative consequence on motivation and morale, both for us as individuals and organizations as a whole.

  • Don’t let others talk you out of your goals – There will be no shortage of individuals who will tell you that you cannot achieve your goals. Shut them down, shut them out, and have the mindset that failure is not an option.

Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “If I would have listened to the naysayers, I would still be in the Austrian Alps yodeling.”  Instead, Arnold won the Mr. Universe title at the age of 20 – only 5 years after he lifted his first weight, became one of the greatest action movie stars of all time, served 2 terms as the Governor of California, and even married a Kennedy.  That’s a long way from being a yodeler.

  • Rely on your goal seeking mechanism – Maltz states in Psychocybernetics that the greatest negative energy towards achieving a goal is the pressure we put on ourselves.

Frequently, the source of that negative energy is because the path to achieving our goal is not absolutely clear.  But it is not so much the path that must be clear, but rather the goal itself. As Maltz asserts, our internal goal seeking mechanism kicks in when we have clarity of our goal, we truly believe that the goal is achievable, and perhaps most importantly, we believe that we are worthy enough to achieve that goal.

When we have such alignment of clarity, achievability, and belief, our minds are filled not with the obstacles before us but rather new ideas and possibilities for achieving our goals. Indeed, the universe aligns and the path to achievement becomes much clearer.

In a few short weeks, 2016 will come to an end.  A new year will be before us all.  How we enter 2017 and to a great degree how we exit the year will be dependent on our ability to set clear, specific, highly visible and realistic goals.  And then we must be 100% certain that we are worthy of the rewards that achieving those goals brings.

So start today and begin setting your clear, realistic goals for 2017.  Write them down, review them frequently, and carry them with you always.  And know deep in your heart and soul that you deserve to win.  I look forward to celebrating your success!